The company that makes the home automation software inside Bonoâ€™s castle and Steve Jobsâ€™ yacht has now decided to build a product for the mass market. Savant, which in January 2014 hired William Lynch, the former CEO of Barnes and Noble to lead the company, has unveiled a $499 remote control and hub that promises to unite your home entertainment system with many of your smart home products.
It will compete with tech giants, security companies, ISPs and myriad other companies seeking footing in what analysts think might be the next battleground for technology dominanceâ€”the smart home.
The system consists of a remote, a charger for the remote and a hub designed by Ammunition, the firm behind the Beats headphones, the Nook e-reader and other popular products. The cachet of both Ammunition and Savant will be needed to get this product off the ground because $500 is quite a bit to pay for home automation at the moment. The nearest competitor in this market is the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote that sells for $349.
Like the Logitech, the central piece of the Savant remote and hub is the AV experience. The design is centered around the television and music, as opposed to security or comfort, which is the focus of many other home automation platforms. Lynch says that Savant went with entertainment first because Savant has been known as a lifestyle brand, and customers want to spend to bring all of their entertainment options together. He says that Savantâ€™s high-end customers turn to Savant for security as well and anticipates that Savantâ€™s DIY product will add security features over time.
Savantâ€™s high-end products start at about $1,000 per room, and are aimed at folks with $300,000 to $2 million homes who want to invest in home automation they will then be able to control. It also does custom installations that cost hundreds of thousands and require programmers to come out and change the settings.
For now, the Savant remote supports more than 380,000 products including Sonos, Roku, Philips Hue lights and popular cable boxes. The idea was to make adding products to the system fairly seamless, with the Savant system automatically detecting products using the homeâ€™s Wi-Fi network. When it comes to come automation, most experts compare Savantâ€™s software to Appleâ€™s, and in my tests the company has plenty of software features that put it above the competitionâ€™s when it comes to making it easy to use.
For example, the remote uses Bluetooth which means it doesnâ€™t need line of sight with your television or cable box to change a channel. The infrared receiver that controls things like that is in the controller. Also, Savant has developed a stand-alone wireless IR puck that can sit inside a cabinet which means that not only can you leave your cabinets closed and still control your receivers, but also that you donâ€™t have to wire the IR extensions devices into gear. Basically, the system is easy to install, which is what every one who is trying to play around in home automation and home audio equipment, will appreciate.
Savant has played in this space for years, but in 2014 raised $90 million in private equity from KKR as part of an influx in cash. It raised the money as a bunch of upstarts were entering the space, including SmartThings, which was acquired by Samsung, Nest, which was acquired by Google and Revolv, which was acquired by Nest. Right now, everyone from Apple and Google are fighting it out with Comcast and even ADT to try to build a compelling home automation platform for consumers. So it makes sense that Savant, which has been in this market for years, would also try. Letâ€™s see if this package is enough.
For more on home automation platforms check out this Fortune video:
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